From the Margins to the Mainstream: Jewish Students and Administrators at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton


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From the Margins to the Mainstream: Jewish Students and Administrators at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton
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Marcia Synnott Ph.D, Department of History, University of South Carolina
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“The university is America writ small,” observed Benjamin Epstein and Arnold Forster in their book on anti Semitism in the United States, “Some of My Best Friends...” (1962). They concluded: “In sum, the entire gamut of discrimination that exists in society as a whole is reproduced in university society.” From restrictive admission to prejudicial treatment after matriculation, American universities have reflected social prejudices more often than they have been standard bearers of enlightened attitudes toward ethnic, racial, and religious minorities. Thus, they can provide fascinating case studies of the acceptance or rejection of minorities and their rate of mobility and assimilation. In this lecture, Prof. Marcia Synnott will focus primarily on why Harvard, Yale, and Princeton Universities, the so-called “Big Three,” adopted informal quotas on Jewish students in the 1920s and why they ultimately relinquished them almost fifty years later. At the conclusion of her talk, she will also explore the debates over whether using race as a factor in admissions — as legitimized by Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) and Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) — discriminates against non-minority students, in particular those who do not benefit from other preferences, as with those accorded to legacies and athletes. This lecture continues UF's celebrations for National Arts & Humanities Month.
Marcia Synnott is Distinguished Professor of History Emerita at the University of South Carolina where she taught U.S. History, the history of American women, and public history. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her books include The Half-Opened Door: Discrimination and Admissions at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, 1900-1970 (Westport, 1979) and a forthcoming volume entitled Student Diversity at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton Universities: 1920-2010 (forthcoming 2012). She is currently finishing a biography on Alice Spearman Wright, a civil rights activist, whose papers are held at the University of South Carolina. She has also published essays on a variety of topics, including women’s access to higher education, African American women and desegregation, legal decisions affecting university admissions policies, and race, gender, and religion in American universities. In 1988, she held a Fulbright lectureship in American Civilization, at the American Institute, Department of English, University of Oslo, Norway.

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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All rights reserved by the source institution.
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